Confessions of a closet perfectionist

Mark1 (2)One of our Company mottos is: We only do good work.  Tricky spin master that I am, I have always preached the dual meaning of this phrase… but only to my employees.  To the world, it was intended to say we hold to a high standard, but to the company it also says, we are not perfectionists.  And by that, of course, I mean I am not a perfectionist.  Nobody wants to be known as anal retentive, and most people don’t want to hire a perfectionist, because they take too long, and do things that don’t need to be done.

I once had a client who was different in that way.  He was an engineer, and the house we were building for him was designed (by him) to have a sort of unibody engineering to protect against earthquake and flood.  He asked us to install the flooring underlayment (a job typically done by rough carpenters) because he wanted every joint perfectly tight, and every screw precisely set.  He didn’t care what it cost or how long it took.  Obviously he felt that this needed to be done.  He hired the right crew, and we did it to his satisfaction.  But he was unique.

My mentor, Harry Weitzer, used to Joke, “It may take forever, but it sure will be expensive”… and that’s what you get from a perfectionist.

So, as you can tell, I don’t like that title.  I believe every job has its acceptable level of tolerance.  This can mean a different level of craftsmanship based on the client’s expectations and budget, or it may refer to different techniques.  For example, in stained or clear finished work, the joints must be tight, but flushness is hard to detect.  Conversely, in painted work, the tightness of the joint is not so important because if you use filler it gets covered by the paint, but if the joint is not sanded perfectly flush you are going to see it in the reflected sheen of the finish.

What I’m here to confess is that while I’m preaching antidisestablishperfectionism, I know deep down that I’m actually holding an even higher standard.  Perfection is a moving target.  The right solution here will be something else over there.  To quote St. Francis,”May I have the wisdom to know the difference”.

And to my employees I can only say thanks, and sorry you have to put up with me.

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